A woman whose employer asked "what am I paying you for?" when she became unable to perform certain lifting and carrying tasks during her pregnancy, has won more than £38,000 compensation.

Abbey Gannapuredy, who started work at Icestone Gelato in Chester in September, 2018, was dismissed shortly after she was due to return to work, following the birth of her son.

Prior to her maternity leave, the employment tribunal heard how her pregnancy and necessary shift changes had been met with criticism and discrimination by the business.

Having been promoted to manager at the shop on Bridge Street, the Chester resident felt that the announcement in April, 2019, that she was pregnant had meant a shift in attitude from some at the company.

After returning from a trip to India, to visit her husband's family prior to the baby's birth, a new policy in which the tables would be lifted and the floor of the shop cleaned each morning prior to opening became a flashpoint as Mrs Gannapuredy, who at this point was nearly five months pregnant, simply could not do so.

Adil Hussain, the nephew of one of Icestone Gelato's franchise owners, who was helping in the shop at the time would "pull a face" when Mrs Gannapuredy could not perform a task, at one point telling her that "maybe she shouldn't be in work" if she could not carry out the tasks required.

When her pregnancy required changes to be made to her shift pattern and hours, which at one point saw her working up to 40 hours a week and loading heavy deliveries into the shop, her boss, Faisal Mohammed, with whom she had previously had a good relationship, would question in an exasperated WhatsApp message why he should pay someone for parts of the job they "can't or won't be able to" asking "what am I paying you for??".

A stressful period followed during which she was demoted from the managerial position and given no assurances that hours would be made available for her when she returned from having her baby.

When Mrs Gannapuredy attempted to raise her grievances with the business directly Mr Mohammed appeared to take this as a personal attack and responded by removing her from the work WhatsApp group, telling other staff that she "is not to be contacted for any work-related issues, she is currently off work and will remain so until further notice".

While she would return to work, grievance meetings with Mr Mohammed and Icestone Gelato's operations manager Paul Morris, would see Mrs Gannapuredy, who is dyslexic, be required to sign forms without being allowed to take the documents home and properly consider them, despite asking to do so in light of the condition.

Covid meant difficulties for the business which at one point became delivery only and Mr Mohammed later warned staff at Icestone Gelato in April 2020 that they would be facing redundancies.

Emails were sent on April 13 2020 with meetings to be arranged on April 18 during which staff were given the opportunity to plead their case, but Mrs Gannapuredy who missed the initial email and consequently the meeting (arranged to be by phone at 12pm) responded on April 18 to ask for more time.

Already feeling vulnerable about her position given her previous treatment, she sought legal advice before approaching Mr Mohammed again on April 20. Her boss responded at 10.47pm that evening to say that she had until the end of "today" to call and give him her thoughts as to why she should keep her position, as the tribunal report stated "therefore giving the claimant the hour or so between 11 p.m. and midnight to call him".

On May 28, 2020, Mrs Gannapuredy was informed she had been selected for redundancy and was not given a formal hearing in which to appeal the decision.

The business was found in breach of the Equality Act and judged to have discriminated against their former employee due to her pregnancy and maternity and compensation was ordered to be paid to the tune of £38,677.27 with £18,000 of that figure specifically calculated for the injury to feeling through pregnancy discrimination and victimisation. Two further claims that she had been discriminated against on the basis of religion or belief and disability failed.